KELOWNA, B.C. – The UBC Okanagan Heat women's volleyball team played a long, tough match against the Mount Royal University Cougars on Friday evening, going a full five sets for the first time this season.
Neither side was overly out-matched on the night, with both teams swinging well and putting away over 50 kills. The biggest difference in the match seemed to be consistency, as the Heat struggled with errors both at the net and from the service line.
After taking the first set, UBC Okanagan dropped the next two by significant margins, and had to storm through the fourth to force the tie-breaking fifth set. That fourth set was an excellent sample of the match as a whole, with the two sides going back and forth with huge hitting and neither side really pulling away until the end.
The deciding set saw the Heat hitting flag while the Cougars' hitters were playing some of their best ball of the night, and that was the difference that decided the match. The MRU attack had a .429 percentage in the final frame, while holding the Heat to just a .056.
First Set: (22-25)
The Heat started the first set on a roll, jumping ahead 7-2 after a five-point run. They were up 16-11 at the break, after another run of four straight in response to the Cougars' almost tying it up at 11 with a run of their own.
Out of the technical time-out the Heat got kills from Michell Jakszuk and Ann Richards to go up 18-14, but MRU earned five of the next six points to make it even at 19-19. After a Heat time-out, Richards and Siobhan Fitzpatrick buried three straight kills to go up 22-19 and force a visitors' time-out.
MRU pulled within a point with a pair right out of the time-out, but another kill from Ann Richards and a Cougars error provided the final two points for the Heat, putting them up 1-0.
Second Set: (25-18)
A couple of runs early on in the second set had the Cougars up 15-10, before taking a 16-11 lead into the media time-out. Scoring three of the next four, MRU were up 19-12 with their largest lead of the set.
A four-point run late in the frame for the Heat brought them within three, down 19-16, before a kill and a service ace, followed shortly by back-to-back kills, for the visitors put them up 21-16 and then 23-17.
Aidan Lea buried a kill for the Heat, to make it 23-18, but it wouldn't be enough, as another back-to-back effort for the Cougars, courtesy of Alex Donaghy and Chantel Park, put away the final two points.
Third Set: (25-16)
The third set started with tight back-and-forth scoring, with MRU just ahead by a point or two, until they were able to put together a three-point run, including a pair of service aces from Carly Davies, and pull ahead 11-7. A Siobhan Fitzpatrick kill and a pair of Cougars errors scored three straight for the Heat and brought them within one, at 11-10, before three straight Heat errors gave a growing lead back to MRU, at 14-10. Erin Drew broke that skid for the home side with a big kill, but the Cougars took a 16-12 lead into the media time-out after a big kill of their own from Donaghy.
After the break, the Heat couldn't string together consecutive points, and couldn't stop the Cougars from doing so. Five straight points closed out the set for MRU, on three kills from Park bookended by a pair of Heat errors.
Fourth Set: (23-25)
The fourth set was the closest yet, going back and forth with 11 ties and four lead changes before the technical time-out, at which the Heat were up 16-14. The Heat had already buried nine kills before the break, but their continued issues with errors combined with the Cougars' four kills were keeping it close.
MRU tied it up out of the time-out, as Alex Donaghy put away yet another kill. A three-point run gave the Cougars back the lead, at 19-18, and the Heat gave away a pair of points that were followed by another Donaghy kill to make it even at 22-22.
Fifth Set: (15-10)
The Heat jumped ahead 3-1 early on in the final set, but four straight on a pair of service aces inside of a pair of kills put MRU up 5-3 and forced a Heat time-out. Aidan Lea got the Heat scoring started again with a well-placed swing, but the Cougars were still ahead at the technical time-out, 8-4.
Out of the break the Heat scored first, on a big swing from Keeley Bell that the MRU receiver couldn't corral. A kill and a huge block scored a pair for the Cougars after that, putting them ahead 10-5, as the Heat called another time-out.
Another great kill from Lea was followed by a pair of service aces off the hand of Skye Thompson, bringing the Heat within two, down 10-8, and forcing a Cougars time-out. UBC Okanagan extended the run to four after the time-out, but another kill from Park and a mishit by the Heat put MRU up 12-9.
Down 12-10 after a kill from Erin Drew brought them within two, the Heat block couldn't stop another big swing from Park, and the MRU wall at the net scored back-to-back points on a pair of huge blocks to close out the match.
Siobhan Fitzpatrick led the way for the Heat offensively, with 14 kills, followed close behind by Aidan Lea and Michelle Jakszuk with 12 apiece. Lea continued her efficient ways with a .348 hitting percentage on the night, and Erin Drew had an impressive nine kills on .400 hitting.
Alex Donaghy was the most dominant hitter of the match, putting away 22 kills on .475 hitting for the Cougars. Chantel Park added 17 kills, hitting .209. Donaghy, Carly Davies, and Nicky Zalasky each had a pair of service aces in the match.
Allisa Dandenault finished with 46 assists, Donaghy and Quinn Pelland tied for a team-high 14 digs, and Zalasky led the way defensively with nine total blocks.
By the Numbers:
The Heat finished the night with more kills (55-52), but were on the wrong side of attack errors (33-27) and hitting percentage (.145 - .176).
Defense at the net was well in favour of the Cougars on Friday night, as they finished with 13 blocks to the Heat's eight, many coming in key moments and two earning the final two points of the match to shut down a would-be Heat comeback.
Service aces were 8-4 for MRU, each side made eight service errors and 58 digs, and setters on each side finished with 51 total assists.
The UBC Okanagan Heat (3-2) and Mount Royal Cougars (3-0) will face off again tomorrow night, with first serve scheduled for 5 p.m. in the UBC Okanagan gymnasium.
~ Grayson B. Leahy, Heat Sports Information